The Biggest March Snowstorm in Massachusetts History

Winter in New England. Red farm building contrasting with white snow and blue sky. Ipswich, Massachusetts, USA
© JKom/

Written by Gray Chapman

Published: March 25, 2023

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The snow fell like a sudden curtain of white over Massachusetts in March 1960. This extraordinary event brought the entire state to its knees. From Boston’s harbor-front to rural farms, the biggest March snowstorm in Massachusetts history set records for wintertime precipitation.

With an intensity rarely seen before, the historic storm ripped through Massachusetts from the Berkshires to Cape Cod. Roaring winds and monster snow drifts paralyzed transportation networks, while businesses closed their doors. We’ll take a closer look at how this mass of winter fury changed life, from infrastructure disruption to economic woes. Experience a captivating exploration into an extraordinary event in Massachusetts’ weather history.

What is the Typical Weather for the State of Massachusetts During March?

Though you may encounter an occasional flurry, this season isn’t known for its heavy snowfall.

©Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/

March signals renewal in Massachusetts as the chill of winter abates to make way for warmer days. Average daily highs often climb to 45°F (7°C), and lows may dip down to 28°F (-2 ℃). However, keep an eye on temperamental weather. March in Massachusetts can be a weather roller coaster. Temperatures could swing wildly from balmy mid-50s to below freezing. It’s essential to stay on top of the forecast so you’re prepared for whatever Mother Nature has up her sleeve. 

During March, Massachusetts is typically treated to a generous amount of precipitation – 4 inches (10 cm) on average. It could be rain or snow, and possibly both. Though you may encounter an occasional flurry, this season isn’t known for its heavy snowfall.

What was the Biggest Snowstorm to Ever Hit Massachusetts During March?

In 1960, Massachusetts was hit with a significant snowstorm that earned the nickname “The Biggest March Snowstorm in History.” This unprecedented storm brought tremendous amounts of snow to every corner of the state. Unfortunately, it also caused disruption and destruction across a wide area.

Heavy snow and fierce winds swept across the state, creating blizzard conditions with whiteout effects. The storm dumped around 20 inches of snow, while sending wind speeds soaring up to a staggering 83 mph. Traveling was nearly impossible due to the storm’s intensity.

The devastating storm affected the entire state, from the mountainous Berkshires to far-reaching Cape Cod. Schools and businesses closed their doors. Transportation halted, leaving many residents stranded, as emergency crews worked overtime to restore power and clear roads.

Massachusetts residents responded with remarkable strength and courage. Their unified support ultimately saw them through.

How Did the Snowstorm Affect Residents Living in the State?

This snowplow is clearing the snow during a nor'easter in Massachusetts.

Emergency responders in Massachusetts worked to clear blocked roads, allowing those in need of medical care access to critical resources.


The storm was an emotional experience for many residents living in Massachusetts. Here are some of the impacts of the storm:

Blocked Roads

A winter wonderland quickly turned into a chaotic nightmare. Heavy snowfall blanketed the roads, leaving many commuters distressed and struggling to make their way to work. The sudden storm created a stressful situation, as residents were trapped indoors.

Fortunately, emergency responders worked to clear blocked roads, allowing those in need of medical care access to critical resources.

Slow Businesses

The snowstorm created wide-ranging fallout for businesses, notably retailers and restaurants. With people reluctant to hit the streets amidst dangerous conditions, small enterprises were hit hard. Many businesses suffered severe financial losses.

Mental Health

The emotional strain of the snowstorm also took its toll on people across the state. Survivors of previous storms, as well as first time victims, suffered post-traumatic stress from the traumatic event. The psychological effects of this storm took time to heal. 

Families were stranded and separated. Many individuals were confined indoors for extended periods, leading to heightened feelings of isolation and loneliness. They were unable to access stores or leave their neighborhoods to seek help. This situation was more difficult for individuals living alone or those with limited social connections. The disruption to daily routines, along with uncertainty, caused anxiety and stress. These feelings were particularly severe for individuals who had previously experienced traumatic events.

Property Damage

Many homes lacked power or basic amenities. Others had structural damages that made them uninhabitable.

How Do Late-Season Snowstorms Impact Wildlife in the Area?

The blizzard of 1960 shook Massachusetts to its core. It left a wake of destruction in terms of both human and animal life. It also altered local wildlife populations as well.

Through the efforts of conservationists, researchers, and environmental advocates, we may be able to prevent future catastrophes. To explore this potentiality, let us examine some of the effects snow storms have on wildlife:

Limited Food and Warmth

The snowstorm had an immense impact on the wildlife of Massachusetts. Animals were forced to migrate for food and warmth, while some species could not survive the extreme weather conditions. Those that did survive were left weakened and vulnerable due to the lack of resources available.

Destroyed Habitats

The snow cover can also have a significant impact on the habitats of animals. Burrowing animals like groundhogs may find their burrows filled with snow. Larger animals like deer struggle to navigate deep drifts. However, some animals, like rabbits, may benefit from the snow cover, as it provides camouflage and protection from predators.

Disrupted Migration Patterns

The disruption to migration patterns was also a significant issue, with some birds delaying their return journeys. This meant that these creatures missed essential feeding periods, putting them at risk of starvation. 

Though late season snowstorms can be incredibly destructive to wildlife, they don’t have to be. By replanting native vegetation and keeping waterways clean, we can help create better conditions for wildlife during storms.

How Do Animals Cope in the Midst of a Snowstorm? 

During a snowstorm, many animals must use various strategies to survive. Birds can be seen migrating south in search of more temperate climates. Other creatures may opt for an extended bout of slumber. Hibernating bears and ground squirrels enter states of inactivity to conserve energy until conditions improve.

Here’s how different animals in Massachusetts cope during a snowstorm:

Black Bears

Black bears are master survivalists. In the winter, when their primary food sources become scarce, these incredible creatures hunker down in preparation for snowstorms. During hibernation, black bears can withstand extreme weather conditions without risk or harm.


Coyotes typically hunt small rodents, birds, fish, and even carrion. However, during a snowstorm, they may be forced to look for alternative food sources. These could include insects or scraps left behind by larger mammals.

Coyotes will often form packs with other members of their species to conserve energy during the coldest hours of the night. These packs often huddle together to stay warm, while trapping heat within the group’s collective fur coats.

Ground Squirrels

Happiest Animals_ Squirrel

These squirrels accumulate thick layers of fur, which help to trap body heat, keeping them insulated.


Ground squirrels are one of the most complex animals to survive extreme weather conditions. These tiny rodents typically dig into the ground, below soil and leaf litter. These burrows keep them warm and protected from harsh elements. 

Ground squirrels also accumulate thick layers of fur, which help to trap body heat, keeping them insulated.

To survive the cold winter months, ground squirrels rely on their clever adaptation of hibernation. They slow their metabolism and go into a state of suspended animation. They sleep through all kinds of inclement weather without worrying about keeping warm or finding food sources.


Adaptation to harsh climates can be seen across the animal kingdom, but it’s especially evident in species of birds. During the frigid winter months, birds showcase their resilience and agility by exhibiting impressive adaptations to keep them alive. From geese that migrate south to ducks equipped with insulating feathers, these animals are ready for the most extreme snowstorms. Some have developed extra layers of feathers that act as a warm blanket. Others boast thicker bills and feet, which work like insulated mittens in chilly waters.

Meanwhile, other more stationary birds use ingenuity. They nestle among hedgerows and cuddle together under evergreen branches, trapping warm air under their feathers. This helps protect against strong winds and frigid temperatures.

Freshwater Animals

Fish are truly remarkable creatures in the face of frigid temperatures. Some species are able to withstand near-freezing temperatures, thanks to a type of natural antifreeze found within their bloodstreams. This compound acts as insulation, giving fish an incredible capacity for survival.

This same compound can also assist them in finding food. They can sense minute changes in water pressure and detect small prey even through thick layers of ice and snow. 

These animals can easily outlast the largest of winter storms.

Finding Strength in Adversity: Reflections on the Massachusetts Snowstorm

The people of Massachusetts also responded admirably to this unprecedented blizzard. They quickly came together to support one another while beginning the rebuilding process. The resilience of humans and animals showcased by this massive snowstorm is remarkable and inspiring.

Massachusetts is now feeling the ramifications of climate change, as evidenced by this historic snowstorm. In an era of heightened global awareness, we must unite to create plans to protect our homes, businesses, and environment.

Together, we can construct a robust and sustainable future for Massachusetts. It’s also essential that those negatively affected seek proper psychological assistance.

Though it may seem like little can be done during natural disasters like these, steps can be taken to ensure history is not repeated. Backup generators installed at key locations can help mitigate future losses and prepare communities for future storms.

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